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Ringing in 275 years

RINGING IN 275 YEARS

THE OLDEST COMPANY ON THE NEW YORK STOCK EXCHANGE, SOTHEBY’S CELEBRATES A GRAND ANNIVERSARY AS AN ART-WORLD PIONEER

On March 11, 2019, Sotheby’s Chairman Domenico De Sole, along with nearly 100 employees, including Chief Executive Tad Smith, celebrated Sotheby’s 275th anniversary at the New York Stock Exchange. Established on March 11, 1744, with a London books auction that totaled £826, Sotheby’s holds the distinction of being the oldest company on the exchange. Today the multibillion-dollar business has offices in 80 cities around the world.

Sotheby’s might be celebrating 275 years, but its attitude has always been one of facing forward. It was the first auction house to open offices in America in 1955, and the first to hold sales in Asia in 1973. Sotheby’s pioneered the format of the evening “event” auctions that are today a mainstay of the sale season. It’s a Sotheby’s auction in the 1970s that is credited with transforming the modern art market, when Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg became the first artists to see their own works sold under the hammer. In 2004, a Rose Period Picasso was the first piece to achieve more than $100 million, and in 2018, online sales totaled more than $220 million.

Some of the world’s most precious objects and collections have passed through Sotheby’s: Napoleon’s library (1823), the original manuscript for Alice’s Adventures Under Ground (1928), Einstein’s writings on the Theory of Relativity (1987), the Andy Warhol Collection (1988), Martin Luther King, Jr.’s library (2006), and Marie-Antoinette’s jewels (2018).

Sotheby’s rings the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange
Sotheby’s rings the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange

Credits: Image courtesy of Sotheby’s

This year will also mark a significant transformation of Sotheby’s physical premises: In May, new galleries at the Manhattan headquarters were unveiled, and October will see spectacular upgrades to the New Bond Street property in London, where the business was born.

For more stories about Sotheby’s 275 years, visit sothebys.com/275

This article originally appeared in Sotheby’s magazine.

Winter is the busy season at the Palm Beach International Raceway in Jupiter, Fla., says Adam Ricardel, director of road course operations there.

A Thomas Rowlandson engraving of Samuel Baker’s original auction room

Credits: Julian Cassady
A Thomas Rowlandson engraving of Samuel Baker’s original auction room

“The track has been here since 1965,” he says, “and it’s a 2.1-mile racecourse with a drag strip and a setup for autocross. We rent it out to clubs and race teams from all over the country. The clubs that are most prevalent are for BMW and Porsche owners—they’re true enthusiasts—and the Mazda Miata, which because of the Spec Miata series is the most-raced car in the U.S. on a day-to-day basis,” Ricardel adds.

Joe Casella is director of the National Auto Sport Association’s northeast U.S. region, which holds Spec Miata events as well as more general track days. “We get guest clubs that want to come and run,” he says. “And on track days, we go from the beginner level up to full-blown racing.” Casella says renting the Lime Rock Park track in Connecticut can cost US$25,000 for a day, and an average of 120 cars might come out to drive.

In Palm Beach and other places, beginners can hook up with the for-profit Hooked on Driving franchise and progress through a training program that starts with novices, who drive with expert co-drivers, up to experienced levels.

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